Are Some Packaging Materials “Better” Than Others?

Joslyn To

Just about every product or service we buy will come in some form of packaging, and most people today don’t feel about where by it may possibly end up the moment it is discarded. If packaging is not correctly disposed of, there can be critical outcomes.

When we toss packaging in the trash, we lose the normal assets it has. There is such a variety of packaging products obtainable that it can be tricky to know irrespective of whether they are recyclable. Greatly made use of resources these types of as plastic, glass, metals, polystyrene (Styrofoam), or paper can typically stop up in landfills, resulting in substantial hurt to the surroundings. To add to this complexity, the sorts of products and solutions recycling packages will accept usually varies.

But is there a possible solution to this issue? Packaging is derived from natural means and, ideally, we want to be capable to employ individuals natural assets as quite a few occasions as achievable to make new merchandise, as a result supporting a circular overall economy.

Several eco-aware buyers are on the lookout for methods to are living less wasteful lives, by picking products and solutions that are broadly recyclable in today’s recycling infrastructure, designed with recycled articles, or by making initiatives to reuse the packaging they have already procured.

Let us acquire a closer glance at the issues to think about with frequent packaging products.


Glass is composed of purely natural entities, these kinds of as sand, soda ash, and limestone. When melted collectively at an really superior temperature, these entities kind a liquid that afterwards cools and solidifies into glass. Glass has been all over for thousands of many years, and currently 20 million tons of glass items are produced each individual 12 months in the United States alone.

The Pros of Applying Glass

One particular of the most important rewards of glass is that it is 100 per cent recyclable. While the top quality of some other resources can degrade with just about every cycle, glass made use of for food and beverage storage can be reproduced with no this sort of decline. Glass also has a quick recycling turnover price. According to the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI), recycled foodstuff storage glass can be again on shop cabinets in as small as 30 times.

An additional perk to employing glass is that it is non-poisonous. Glass is free from damaging chemical substances, and it really should have no adverse impact on your saved food items goods or your health and fitness.

Recycled glass, or “cullet,” can also assistance the atmosphere by lessening emissions, limiting the intake of raw materials, and preserving strength.

The Disadvantages of Utilizing Glass

Glass is really major in comparison to many other packaging materials these types of as plastic, steel (when utilized in small quantities), and fiber, generating it heavier to transportation for each unit.

Also, like most packaging elements, only a fraction of glass packaging receives recycled. In 2018, the Environmental Security Company (EPA) calculated that only 31 p.c of all glass in the United States was recycled—with most of the remainder ending up in landfills and the purely natural setting, exactly where it will take countless numbers of years to decompose. In addition, some curbside recycling courses close to the country have resolved to exclude glass containers from their list of acceptable merchandise for selection.

Glass is also a weighty, fragile material, which can make transporting it in big quantities tough.


Plastic is a polymer that comes from different purely natural factors, these kinds of as organic gasoline, oil, coal, minerals, and crops. In an act termed polymerization, these components are refined into ethane and propane, heated at substantial temperatures to split down into ethylene and propylene, and later on rearranged into distinctive plastic polymers. It also is crucial to know that there are various unique plastic resin kinds. On a plastic solution you can glimpse at the Recycling Identification Code (RIC), which delivers a numbering method stamped onto a solution to differentiate involving the resin varieties.

Plastic generation has only been close to for a very little around a century and has proliferated in its use. According to the EPA, in 2018 plastics era in the United States was 35.7 million tons.

The Execs of Using Plastic

From a shipping and delivery standpoint, plastic is a great option for enterprise use. As a resilient, versatile, and light-weight material, plastic is exceptionally adaptable and can be employed for a variety of packaging applications. Specific resin types are picked out for their exclusive properties to consist of particular types of goods. Plastic is incredibly helpful to secure and protect items though lessening bodyweight in transportation, which will help preserve gasoline and minimize greenhouse gasoline emissions.

The Disadvantages of Using Plastic

When plastic packaging finds its way into our waterways and larger bodies of drinking water, it poses a risk to wildlife as a choking hazard to many animals. Trash from plastic packaging, as with all litter, can also affect aquatic plant daily life. The EPA states that floating trash can block out sunlight and deplete oxygen levels in the ocean, all of which are necessary for underwater photosynthesis.

Not all plastics are conveniently recyclable working with today’s recycling infrastructure. It is complicated to differentiate in between the different kinds of plastics to know which can be quickly recycled, and how. As an instance, PET drinking water bottles and HDPE detergent bottles are some of the additional common and conveniently recycled plastic packaging possibilities, but fewer normally recycled plastics are incredibly likely to end up in a landfill.


Supplies like aluminum, tin, and metal are all made use of to package and preserve products. They come in many varieties, but most frequently just one will discover these metals in the variety of cans, foil, or the metallic observed in multi-layered versatile pouches. The use of metals in packaging dates back again to 1810, when the tin can was invented. It became a extensively employed type of meals packaging as it authorized foods to retain freshness even though blocking normal acids from building.

The Professionals of Working with Metal

Metallic packaging blocks outside the house components this kind of as daylight, allowing food to stay refreshing. It is a sturdy substance that can shield its contents, and it will not break down as conveniently as some other materials.

While tricky and strong, steel can also simply be worked into a selection of diverse styles to accommodate a array of packaging wants. The light-weight composition of some metals, aluminum in specific, will allow for reduced delivery charges and many styles of metal packaging use a considerable quantity of recycled material to make the item.

A further gain to metallic packaging is that it can be recycled infinitely at a expense-helpful, electricity efficient price. According to the Aluminum Affiliation, “Making recycled aluminum only normally takes all-around five p.c of the energy required to make new aluminum—reducing carbon emissions and preserving income for organizations and stop people. As a end result, virtually 75 p.c of all aluminum ever generated is however in use today.”

The Cons of Working with Steel

As with other packaging that extracts normal resources, mining has an environmental impression by means of the extraction of uncooked ore from the floor. It is for this explanation that it is particularly essential to reuse and recycle metallic packaging.

Fiber (Paperboard)

Fiber-primarily based packaging, also recognised as paperboard, is usually manufactured from fibrous components this sort of as pulpwood, recovered paper, old corrugated cardboard (OCC), wheat straw, or other organic elements. This materials has found an raise in demand from customers in the very last two many years, obtaining doubled its creation in that time. The most prevalent uses for paperboard are beverage cartons and foods or sweet packaging.

The Execs of Working with Fiber

Paperboard is often produced from recycled products, it can be recycled itself, and it can be biodegradable if it meets specific marketplace benchmarks.

It is a multipurpose materials that can be quickly tailored to suit numerous desires these as cartons, cereal containers, trays, packing containers, substantial bins, and much more. If your business enterprise specials with any goods that are fragile, paperboard can be utilized as added padding to add a layer of protection.

The Drawbacks of Employing Fiber

In accordance to the EPA, paper containers and packaging currently have a recycling charge of just 20.8 p.c. Paperboard and other fibrous packaging products at periods are not as tough as metallic, plastic, or glass. This presents complications with delivery. It is not as easily stackable, it holds weaker barrier properties than its opponents, and it is additional vulnerable to dampness destruction. Similarly, paper packaging does not have fantastic barrier properties to lengthen merchandise shelf existence when compared to metal, glass, or plastic.

Using all of this into consideration, is there any one packaging content that is greater than the relaxation? This is a complicated issue with a lot of variables. Each individual variety of packaging has its rewards and cons, but there is a put for every relying on the character of your business enterprise, what products you are providing, how you are transporting them, and many other variables. It is truly worth getting a nearer glimpse at the packaging components your business enterprise is making use of to consider their expense performance, environmental friendliness, and the very well-becoming of your individuals.

Rubicon’s Packaging Recycling Methods

At Rubicon, we enable companies of all measurements discover ideal recycling remedies for all their squander streams to preserve as substantially substance out of landfills as achievable and progress our mission to end waste.

If you have any questions, or are intrigued in discovering extra about Rubicon’s packaging recycling products and services, please speak to us currently.

Meredith Leahy is Sr. Supervisor, Circular Economy at Rubicon. To stay ahead of Rubicon’s announcements of new partnerships and collaborations about the planet, be confident to stick to us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or get in touch with us these days. 

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